citizen kane is #1

The Sight and Sound Top Ten Poll lauded Citizen Kane as the best film ever, by both the critics and directors . As I said before, I don’t see what all the fuss is about Citizen Kane. It wasn’t very entertaining and was almost a chore to watch. It baffles me that what I saw as a lackluster movie could have earned first place for the past forty years in this poll (they have one every 10 years). I think it must be like eating green beans when I was a kid. I hated eating them, but I was told I had to because they were good for me. I plan to watch the rest of the films listed to see what I’m missing, but I can assure you my list would be quite different.

More information can be found in two articles as well as a metafilter thread discussing the poll.


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  1. You might be interested to see what my favorite film reviewer thinks is the best film of all time. You can get more information about this primo piece of cinema here.

    Comment by Jim on August 13, 2002 @ 1:02 am
  2. Wow, I’ve already seen six of the top ten and I loved them. This is the kind of list I was talking about. It has engaging and entertaining movies that you love seeing over and over again.

    Thanks for the link Jim. I may have to take a few days off so I can watch all the movies on the list that I haven’t seen yet.

    Comment by dan on August 13, 2002 @ 1:32 am
  3. Jim – I got that link off your blog, and although I don’t agree with all her reviews, it’s definitely a great site and a cut above (or perhaps off to the side of) most other movie reviewers I’ve seen. Gotta love someone with the guts to put Buckaroo Banzai in the number one spot!

    Although I didn’t find Citizen Kane terribly entertaining, I can see how it was a very important movie cinematically. I think it’s got more than enough laurels by now, though, and the critics really ought to move on.

    Comment by Levi on August 13, 2002 @ 1:37 am
  4. Dan,
    Do you know how some boxers are called “pound-for-pound”, the best boxer in the business? I think CITIZEN KANE is judged the same way. All things considered, it’s the best movie ever (and I tend to agree). Here’s why:

    1. Orson Welles was in his early/mid-twenties when he directed and acted in the picture, and the picture is an incredible accomplishment.
    2. The cinematographic elements of the film were stunning and innovative at the time the movie wsa filmed.
    3. Welles gives an awesome performance as Charles Foster Kane. The scenes depicting Kane as an old man are particularly notable.
    4. The controversy which connects the fictional Kane to real-life newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst makes the film as large, or larger, than life.
    5. The story depicts the best and worst elements of American ambition: old fashioned idealism corrupted by the quest for greed and power.

    Comment by illway on August 13, 2002 @ 5:55 pm
  5. Thanks for the insight illway. I like the pound-for-pound analogy. I don’t like #2 though. I think it should be able to stand up against current movies that can do things far superior to what they could do then. I liken it to sports and how we progressively get better and better. We should respect those athletes who came before, but if another athlete beats a record, they should get more respect.

    It seems unfair to current movies, because we’re stuck on this movie that did so much with so little, nothing can ever be better than it. There’s so much more potential in movies now than when he made it that it’s much harder to push the envelope cinemetographically. (is that a word?) There’s been so much technology that has added to movies that it’s almost impossible to reach the ceiling of what can be done.

    Comment by dan on August 13, 2002 @ 7:24 pm
  6. Yes, if you spell it ‘cinematographically,’ and it means what it looks like.

    Good points, illway. I think that’s a nice summary of why it’s such an important film, and why it has such artistic merit.

    Dan, as far as cinematography goes, I hesitate to link it too closely with technology. I think about it in the same sense that I think of photography– you can take an excellent photo with a low-tech camera; it’s the way you compose the image that makes it special. Technology has opened the possibility for new sorts of compositions, but it doesn’t make them good by itself.

    That said, I wonder if it will ever be possible to create a movie better, in critics’ eyes, than Citizen Kane. It’s been entrenched in the number one spot for so long that it’s almost become an idol of the world of cinema. It’s akin to blasphemy to suggest that any given movie is better. Maybe there isn’t a better one yet, but I can imagine the controversy when one comes along.

    Comment by Levi on August 14, 2002 @ 3:53 am
  7. i believe citizen kane is an amazingly well done movie, especialy since they didnt have the technology we do today, yet it is still considered the best. didnt orson welles do more than direct, write and act in it though? and what year did he die?

    Comment by andee on November 13, 2003 @ 2:39 pm
  8. Orson Welles died on October 10, 1985.

    What more could he have done besides directing, writing and acting in it?

    Comment by dan on November 13, 2003 @ 2:46 pm
  9. He was co-writer with Herman J. Mankiewicz, he was the director, he acted in it and… he was the producer.

    Comment by Levi on November 13, 2003 @ 3:50 pm
  10. Ah, producing.

    Very tricky…

    Comment by dan on November 13, 2003 @ 4:13 pm
  11. Might I add that putting out a decent film without all the technology we have today may be cause for a good grade in effort, but not for achievment. Critics should just care about the end product — which movie is best.

    Comment by Cameron on November 14, 2003 @ 11:34 am
  12. Critics do tend to care about the end product. They are critical, however, which means that they have a set of criteria by which to judge a movie. These criteria are often different than those of your average moviegoer, who may have little knowledge of the subtleties of cinematography and such things, and generally just wants to be entertained.

    I’ll bet a lot of the critics who think Citizen Kane is #1 really do enjoy watching it. It meets all their criteria for a good movie, and they notice all the cool stuff that Welles did, and they get a cinema-geek kick out of it. So, if you ask a bunch of professional cinema-geeks (aka movie critics) to give you a list of the top movies, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t match up with your opinions.

    Comment by Levi on November 14, 2003 @ 1:28 pm
  13. Good point, and yeah, their lists usually don’t sync with mine.

    Comment by Cameron on November 17, 2003 @ 10:33 am

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